Saturday, March 11, 2017

Georgians cheer European court's ruling on independent broadcaster



Several thousand Georgians gathered on March 11 in front of the old parliament building in Tbilisi for a concert organised to celebrate the ruling of the Strasbourg court against the country's supreme court. Europe's human rights court on March 7 again suspended an attempt by Georgia to put the country's biggest independent television station under the control of a close government ally. "The war is not over yet, so we are fighting for freedom of speech, for freedom of expression, and for the development of democracy in Georgia. That was a very important step and thanks to the European Court of Human Rights we are today celebrating, the whole Georgian people, the whole Georgian nation is celebrating this important win," said Nika Gvaramia, the general director of the broadcaster company, as Rustavi 2 allies cheered waving Georgian and the EU flags. Georgia's supreme court last week backed a legal ruling that broadcaster Rustavi 2 should be returned to its former co-owner, businessman Kibar Khalvashi, a move that critics consider an attempt to muzzle the media.

The TV station has been fighting court battles in Georgia since August 2015, when a lower court ruled in favor of Khalvashi, who said he had been forced to give up his controlling stake in the company under the former government of Mikheil Saakashvili.
Government officials have accused the popular TV station of bias, while critics fear Khalvashi - a close supporter of the ruling Georgian Dream party - would silence the only strong media voice critical of the government.

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